If you struggling even thinking about doing things for you and the idea of self-care, don’t worry you are not alone. It has been found that only 6.6% of adults over the age of 25 carry out some form of self-care each day.
If you think it is about having to ‘do more’ you have missed the point!
It is hard to even contemplate the idea of taking time for you if you feel that your life is jammed packed full as it is! Working full-time, an endless to-do list that feels like it is getting longer and longer, dashing here and there to get errands done, looking after your kids and families. It is no wonder at the end of the day you are exhausted and the thought of factoring MORE things in your day feels too much. You may even feel like you are coping good enough for now, so there is no need for self-care or that there are more important things you should be doing in your day.
When do you tend to start paying attention to yourself? When things start backfiring and your health begins to suffer. When we fail to give ourselves the time and attention we need, we will start to experience the following:
· Feeling out of control and overwhelmed
· Even more stressed and anxious
· Physical symptoms; head-aches, insomnia, stomach problems
· Less patience
· Urges to overeat or binge on unhealthy foods
· Poorer performance at work
· Feeling more isolated as less time is spent being social
What I want you to know is that self-care does not have to be another thing you ‘have to’ or ‘should be’ doing in your day. The reason it is feeling too much to even think about is because the most common advice for self-care are externally-focused activities.
· Have a nice bubble bath
· Read a book
· Go for a nice walk
· Listen to music
I used to hear this all the time when I was struggling to cope with stress at work, my anxiety and issues with food and my body:
“Take time for you”.
“Do something nice for yourself”.
I remember thinking; “not another thing I should be doing in my day? I feel too overwhelmed as it is!” Also, deep down inside I held the belief that I didn’t deserve it and that achieving more at work, going to the gym and controlling what I was eating was way more important. As a result, I would never stick to these external self-care approaches as they just felt like a chore, rather than a pleasure, thus having completely the opposite effect!
Rather than ‘doing’ more, I want to introduce the concept that you can start self-care by focusing internally rather than externally.
Trying to focus on your actions (bubble baths, reading, walks etc.) without addressing what is going on inside will feel near enough impossible to do! All that business, overwhelm, stress at work or home manifests in your beliefs, thoughts and feelings.
In other words, when you think a certain thought e.g. I have to get all of this done today, it causes you to feel a certain way e.g. stressed or overwhelmed, which causes you to act in a certain way e.g. rushing around everywhere, which causes certain results e.g. feeling exhausted and burnt out at the end of the time with no energy to even think about yourself.
To start self-care, you can forget doing more. Here are 2 non-doing internal tips:
1. Self-care thinking
Keep in mind, what you are telling yourself becomes your reality. So, the next time you catch yourself thinking, “I can’t do that”, “I don’t deserve that”, “I can ignore this and just carry on” you will get that outcome. So, it is essential to start catching these statements out and standing up to the thoughts. This does not mean going straight from “I can’t do that I have too many things to do” to “I can do that and I will” because your brain needs to buy into the thought and believe it for this to be effective. Instead, start to shift towards thoughts which are kinder and more forgiving.
For example, “I can’t do that” to “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now, but that is ok”.
Can you feel the difference?
2. Self-care feeling
Your subconscious mind speaks a different language to your conscious mind; it doesn’t understand words it only understands feelings! So, trying to control situations with willpower, setting yourself more things to do and trying to control everything going on in your life is not going to be effective!
I want you to commit to sparing 2 minutes in the morning when you wake up. You can set your alarm 2 minutes earlier, do this in bed or even in the shower:
1. Close your eyes and spend a few breaths just settling into your body
2. Connect to a feeling you would like to have with you throughout the day for example calmer, more relaxed, more forgiving.
Again, these don’t have to be overfly positive to start with e.g. confident or happy, as your brain has to believe in the new feeling.
3. Pick a feeling which feels realistic and ask yourself:
“If there was somewhere in my body where I felt like where would it be?”
“If it could have a shape or colour what would that be?”
Once you have the qualities connect to the feeling and do whatever you need to do to make it stronger.
These 2 internal tips will help you to overcome any worries you have about not feeling deserving enough or worthy enough of prioritising you over other things in your life. These things take practice, so the more you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings throughout your day (as you are ‘doing’ all the stuff on your to-do list) the more you will start to treat yourself with the same kindness you do with everything else on your life and feel like everything else is so much more manageable!
I am asking you to let go of the need to ‘do’ more and instead focus on what is going on inside.
Doing this and you will be surprised to notice what this can do for you and your life:
· Feeling more in control when dashing here there and everywhere
· Becoming less reactive to what is going on around you
· Managing your emotions with needing more ‘things’ or distractions
· Feeling calmer
· Feeling stronger and more resilient
· Feeling physically well; better sleep, less headaches, less digestive issues
· Feeling more deserving and able to prioritise yourself in your busy, hectic life
If you are struggling to even wrap your head around the concept of self-care and are thinking; “how do I fit this in when I have so many other important things to do?”, there is an easier way to still look after you without needing to ‘do more’. The concept of internal self-care; 2 strategies to help you manage your thoughts and feelings in your hectic world of doing! These are the foundations of self-care as what you think and how you feel impacts your actions in your life. Focusing on the internal will help you be able to deal with whatever life throws at you, maintain your health, your strength and ultimately your happiness.
No more doing is needed!
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0432 445 320
Women’s Therapist Sydney